This 4-track EP that dropped last summer was a significant moment in UK hip-hop, seeing two of the biggest names in the game, Dave and Central Cee, reach the top of the charts with their single “Sprinter”. It broke the record for the most streams for a hip-hop song on Spotify UK. The fact that it’s the umpteenth song about objectifying women and boasting about bank accounts, signifies that as much as hip-hop has changed in fifty years, very little has changed as far as what’s popular. For those less familiar with the exciting world of vans, the Sprinter is a popular iteration of the Mercedes delivery vehicle synonymous with businesses, and in this instance (judging by the video at least), Dave and Central Cee are piling women into theirs. I kind of expected this from Central Cee, an emcee that has been labeled an industry plant. He’s the more popular artist here, but I’ve never understood the appeal considering he operates under the umbrella of sleepy, conversational flows that many drill rappers prefer. On the contrary, Dave is one of the most acclaimed emcees in the UK with a genuinely great album under his belt. This gulf between the two is evident throughout this very brief “Split Decision” EP.
While Dave is littering his rhymes with wit and detail, Central Cee is more flawed in his approach. It took me much longer to warm to his style of self-deprecative honesty, mainly because it’s not always effective. There is a human side to Central that explains his popularity, but the writing is often contradictory to the point that it undoes any goodwill built. The bars are solid enough but don’t land like they should – admitting that he was masturbating to Brazzers and eating baked beans out of a tin is just difficult to believe, and much of that lies in the manner of his delivery. Dave is more effective on the reflective “Our 25th Birthday”, and even sounds like a British 38 Spesh as he hammers home his drive to be a success.
Production is largely derivative, particularly on “UK Rap” and “Trojan Horse”. The former continues the tongue-in-cheek humor, boasting that their women only listen to Dave and Central Cee when it comes to emcees from the United Kingdom, but that’s fine, as they are only average-looking ladies anyway. The latter track is further tales of enjoying women, although has some neat wordplay from both to at least keep things interesting.
Central admits he’s not boujee, then a few lines later claims to wear a 2kg chain to an award ceremony. Another he’s boasting about exclusively visiting universities to sell drugs, then the next track he wants to be one of the students. Bragging about being rich, then admits his biggest expenditure is tax. The inconsistencies are so consistent that it might even be his gimmick – I’m not overly familiar with Central’s older material – answers on a postcard, please. If it is, it’s an incredible feat of writing, and offers something that’s more layered than the occasional contradiction we hear so often from rappers. But I find it hard to believe, and Central’s distracting presence is the primary reason this EP lacks balance. Dave’s rhymes are delivered more earnestly, and convince, but considering this is only four songs, most people have moved on already from what was a historic moment for UK rap. Even the ugly lasses that just listen to it.